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Original Essays | September 18, 2014

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I Was a Dancer

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I Was a Dancer Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

“Who am I? Im a man; an American, a father, a teacher, but most of all, I am a person who knows how the arts can change lives, because they transformed mine. I was a dancer.”

In this rich, expansive, spirited memoir, Jacques dAmboise, one of Americas most celebrated classical dancers, and former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet for more than three decades, tells the extraordinary story of his life in dance, and of Americas most renowned and admired dance companies.

He writes of his classical studies beginning at the age of eight at The School of American Ballet. At twelve he was asked to perform with Ballet Society; three years later he joined the New York City Ballet and made his European debut at Londons Covent Garden.

As George Balanchines protégé, dAmboise had more works choreographed on him by “the supreme Ballet Master” than any other dancer, among them Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux; Episodes; A Midsummers Nights Dream; Jewels; Raymonda Variations.

He writes of his boyhood—born Joseph Ahearn—in Dedham, Massachusetts; his mother (“the Boss”) moving the family to New York Citys Washington Heights; dragging her son and daughter to ballet class (paying the teacher $7.50 from hats she made and sold on street corners, and with chickens she cooked stuffed with chestnuts); his mother changing the family name from Ahearn to her maiden name, dAmboise (“Its aristocratic. It has the ‘d apostrophe. It sounds better for the ballet, and its a better name”).

We see him. a neighborhood tough, in Catholic schools being taught by the nuns; on the streets, fighting with neighborhood gangs, and taking ten classes a week at the School of American Ballet . . . being taught professional class by Balanchine (he was “small, unassuming, he radiated energy and total command”) and by other teachers of great legend: Anatole Oboukhoff, premier danseur of the Maryinsky Theatre (“Such a big star,” said Balanchine, “people followed him, like a prince with servants”); and Pierre Vladimiroff, Pavlovas partner (“So light on feather feet”). Vladimiroff drilled into his students, “You must practice, practice, practice. Onstage, forget everything! Just listen to the music and dance.”

DAmboise writes about Balanchines succession of ballerina muses who inspired him to near-obsessive passion and led him to create extraordinary ballets, dancers with whom dAmboise partnered—Maria Tallchief; Tanaquil LeClercq, a stick-skinny teenager who blossomed into an exquisite, witty, sophisticated “angel” with her “long limbs and dramatic, mysterious elegance . . .”; the iridescent Allegra Kent; Melissa Hayden; Suzanne Farrell, who Balanchine called his “alabaster princess,” her every fiber, every movement imbued with passion and energy; Kay Mazzo; Kyra Nichols (“Shes perfect,” Balanchine said. “Uncomplicated—like fresh water”); and Karin von Aroldingen, to whom Balanchine left most of his ballets.

DAmboise writes about dancing with and courting one of the companys members, who became his wife for fifty-three years, and the four children they had . . . On going to Hollywood to make Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and being offered a long-term contract at MGM (“If youre not careful,” Balanchine warned, “you will have sold your soul for seven years”) . . . On Jerome Robbins (“Jerry could be charming and complimentary, and then, five minutes later, attack, and crush your spirit—all to see how it would influence the dance movements”).

DAmboise writes of the moment when he realizes his dancing career is over and he begins a new life and new dream teaching children all over the world about the arts through the magic of dance.

A riveting, magical book, as transformative as dancing itself.

Book News Annotation:

A lively memoir of an extraordinary life. D'Amboise (b. 1934), a protégé of George Balanchine, was a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet for more than 33 years (he began there at age 15). In 1976 he founded National Dance Institute, where children have been taught to dance for several decades. This account describes his childhood, training, and career. B&w photos are included. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

From one of America’s finest, and most celebrated, classical dancers; former principal dancer for more than three decades with the New York City Ballet—the irresistible story of an exhilarating life in dance.

He writes of the New York City Ballet and those at its center: Lincoln Kirstein; Jerome Robbins; George Balanchine (“With Robbins, you were amplified; with Balanchine, you were transformed”), as well as the ballerinas who were Balanchine’s muses—Maria Tallchief, Tanaquil LeClercq, Allegra Kent, Melissa Hayden, and Suzanne Farrell among them—and with whom d’Amboise had the privilege of partnering . . . about the ballets he danced (he had more works choreographed on him by Balanchine than any other dancer) . . . on courting one of the members of the company who became his wife . . . on the mentors, teachers, and choreographers with whom d’Amboise worked long before they became legends: Antony Tudor, Frederick Ashton, Martha Graham, among them . . .

A riveting, magical book, as transformative as dancing itself.

About the Author

Jacques d’Amboise joined the New York City Ballet at fifteen, became principal dancer at seventeen, and remained so for the next thirty-five years. He has appeared in the films Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Carousel, The Best Things in Life Are Free, Watching Ballet, and Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In 1976, he founded the National Dance Institute, an arts education program, and is the author of Teaching the Magic of Dance (1983). He lives in New York City and Hunter, New York.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400042340
Author:
Damboise, Jacques
Publisher:
Alfred A. Knopf
Author:
D'Amboise, Jacques
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Biography
Subject:
Biography-Entertainment and Performing Arts
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20110331
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
106 PHOTOGRAPHS IN TEXT
Pages:
464
Dimensions:
9.5 x 6.55 x 1.25 in 1.9 lb

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Dance » Ballet » General
Arts and Entertainment » Dance » Biographies
Arts and Entertainment » Dance » General
Biography » Entertainment and Performing Arts

I Was a Dancer Sale Hardcover
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Product details 464 pages Alfred A. Knopf - English 9781400042340 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , From one of America’s finest, and most celebrated, classical dancers; former principal dancer for more than three decades with the New York City Ballet—the irresistible story of an exhilarating life in dance.

He writes of the New York City Ballet and those at its center: Lincoln Kirstein; Jerome Robbins; George Balanchine (“With Robbins, you were amplified; with Balanchine, you were transformed”), as well as the ballerinas who were Balanchine’s muses—Maria Tallchief, Tanaquil LeClercq, Allegra Kent, Melissa Hayden, and Suzanne Farrell among them—and with whom d’Amboise had the privilege of partnering . . . about the ballets he danced (he had more works choreographed on him by Balanchine than any other dancer) . . . on courting one of the members of the company who became his wife . . . on the mentors, teachers, and choreographers with whom d’Amboise worked long before they became legends: Antony Tudor, Frederick Ashton, Martha Graham, among them . . .

A riveting, magical book, as transformative as dancing itself.

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